It’d be nice to think we’d all do something noble with the opportunity. Go back in time, and kill Walt Disney before he kidnapped all of those kids in World War II to make them work on that damn boat ride. But we’re all mostly cowards wearing suits of armor made out of cardboard and dried tears. Nobody’s killing Baby Disney. Who kills babies anyway? Wouldn’t you assassinate a wrongdoer when they were doing their wrongs? I could see myself trying to explain to people of the past what the hell I was up to:
“Greetings people of the past times. My name is Billy Wylde and I have come from the future to kill this baby. Now, I know, this sounds mildly diabolical, but that baby is going to grow up and make the world a much smaller place. So you see, it’s an instance of “mildly diabolical” vs. “wildly diabolical”. Good day. And while I’m here, hey, be less racist.”
The past people would have stoned me to death quite presently.
I’d have to go back in time to correct going back in time and trying to convince a bunch of racists that I needed to kill a baby. And that would likely create a time pair-of-ox, and we’d all be greatly affected by butterflies or whatnot. So I just wouldn’t do it to begin with. And I doubt you would either. No offense. I’ve seen the way some folks look after their 8th hamburger. The regret on their faces is just dying for a time machine to fix that gastric distress.
We all have that hamburger based regret. Even if it’s to do with other things instead. Can I offer you this candy cigarette?
Mother Mary used to bring lots of girls home while my father was away. And by “away”, I mean, “off to war”, by which I mean he had another Billy, and another Mother Mary in another town like ours, but further away, and the people in question had other names. I bet they were named Marjorie, and Bartholomule or something. Can’t you just see it? The Old Man basically lived the life of a mirror, with reflections that were the same except for being totally different.
“It will all make sense one day, dear,” Mother Mary would say. “Your father is fighting a battle, you see, but it’s between his head and his underpants. And they’re both losing.”
I wish I’d held that against him back then. That stored up pain and confusion is just so enjoyable now as adult and all. But no, I used to blame Mother Mary and her lady friends. Mom would lie in bed with them at night and hold them until they fell asleep.
“Billy, if you can’t love a woman, the way she’s intended to be loved, my dear, I need you to promise me you’ll never drown her in loathing and disrespect. One mustn’t imprison the innocent,” she told me once.
“Is this why dad is gonzo? Did she drown him?” I likely wondered.
No. He had his reasons. I hope to get his answers one day. But today I know that Mary was a bit a lifesaver. Those girls she would always take in had a hard time at home. Hard as in, bruises and welts that were hidden from little boys and noisy neighbors. Like, Thanksgiving hard with a turkey for a fist, filled up with hate for stuffing.
There was one time I found her curled up in the bathtub, one of those fancy dresses she wore was spilling over the sides. So were her tears. She couldn’t protect them all, and I don’t think she could handle that.
“It’s all just so heinous. All of it. We can’t always be so solid, little one. There are times when we must melt. I’m not ashamed that you’ve found me in such a state.”
“I think we’re still in California, momma,” I said before crawling into the tub with her.
We’re not meant to know what we don’t know when we’re not meant to know it. Maybe I could go back and tell little Whilhelm to cut his mom some slack. She’s actually a kind of hero. The best thing I’ve got going for me is Lucy, and the claim to fame that I’m quite the llama-whisperer. Maybe I could go back and tell younger me all of this.
“Hey, me in the past. Be nicer to your ma. And start referring to yourself as ‘Billy’ sooner, you rugrat. Good day. And while I’m here, hey, be less racist.”
“But I’m not racist at all, strange future man.”
“No, but still, be less than you are. There’s a battle between right and wrong. And they’re both losing.”
“Okay, strange man.”
I have the best conversations with hypothetical, Mini-Billy. He keeps me honest.
Hell, maybe I’d go back to my circus days and free that talking lion, and the two of us could sail around the world, solving crimes from our crime-solving ship, the “Rawr, Rawr, Rawr, Your Boat”.
But I won’t.
My cardboard armor is coming apart. I still have the taste of that not-so-much-a-candy cigarette in my mouth. I’m not the hero my Mother Mary is. I’m sitting here thinking about time travelling in order to kill babies and avoid eating hamburgers.
“It’s okay future man. It will all make sense one day, even if it doesn’t. Hey, want to trade those cherries?“